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What's Considered a Clean Driving Record

A driver with a clean driving record is a driver who has avoided accidents, moving violations, criminal violations and license points. All things being equal, drivers with a clean driving record pay a lower-than-average rate for their auto insurance because they pose a much lower risk for accidents than drivers with a spotty record.

If you don't have a clean record now, you can have one in the near future. If you avoid filing any claims for three to five years, your insurance premium—that is, the dollar amount you pay for auto insurance—will most likely be lowered and you may also become eligible for discounts on your insurance rate.

Why Do Insurance Companies Like Drivers with a Clean Driving Record?

Auto insurance companies are in the business of risk management and financial recovery. In order to assess an individual's future likelihood of filing a claim or getting into an accident, auto insurers look at a host of tried-and-true indicators that suggest an individual's level of personal responsibility, or aversion to risk.

Based on decades of data and statistics, insurance companies can tell a lot about a customer based on their age, gender, marital status, occupation, location of residence, auto insurance history, credit score and, of course, driving record. Auto insurance companies use these predictors and others to make the law of averages work in their favor. In short, a safe driver with a spotless record is a safe bet for an auto insurance company's bottom line.

How Far Back Does a Driving Record Go?

When calculating insurance rates, most insurance companies only go back three to five years when checking your driving record, also known as a motor vehicle report. How far back your driving record goes depends upon the state you live in. To find out the particulars of your state, go to the website of your state DMV or office of insurance.

You can get your driving record from your state DMV.

Do I Have a Clean Driving Record?

Your state's department of motor vehicles or a similar agency records, maintains and updates your "motor vehicle report" (MVR), which is a public, official record of your driving history. Savvy drivers order their MVR to double-check that points were not mistakenly added. Further, you may owe money on an outstanding ticket that you completely forgot. While every state is different, most motor vehicle reports include most or all of the following items:

  • Driving license status 
  • License classifications and endorsements
  • DUI/DWI convictions
  • Fees and citations owed
  • License points
  • Traffic accidents
  • Moving violation convictions and fines
  • Defensive driving classes taken 

Your driving record will not have information about non-moving violations and non-driving-related criminal history.

How Do I Get My Motor Vehicle Report?

You can request your motor vehicle report (MVR) from your state's DMV either in person, by mail or online. When making your MVR request, you typically need to provide your license number, birth date and Social Security number. While some states don't charge a fee, others do. For example, Texas charges different rates for different types of records:

Driver Record Type Fee
Status record$4
Three-year history$6
List of all crashes and violations$7
Certified abstract of complete driver record$20

How Does a Points System Work?

Most states use a point system to track a driver's infractions and citations (Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Wyoming do not). Under this system, drivers receive points for various infractions, the number of points reflecting a specific infraction's severity. Drivers receive points on their record only when they are convicted.

As an example, let's take the Arizona Dept. of Transportation's point system. In the Copper State, your driving privilege may be suspended for up to a year if you accumulate eight or more points in a 12-month period or 24 or more points in a 36-month period.

Violation Points
DUI8
Extreme DUI8
Reckless driving8
Aggressive driving8
Leaving the scene of accident, hit-and-run6
Traffic violation causing death6
Traffic violation causing serious injury4
Speeding3
Driving over or parking in a gore area3
All other moving violations2

*A "gore" area is the triangular area located in between the lanes of a highway or between the highway and an entrance or exit ramp. 

When Are Points Removed from My License?

Every state has its own particular rules, so consult your state DMV to get the final say on your state's point system. In most states, a driver's points disappear after a certain state-mandated time period of accident- or violation-free driving. In some cases, such as in Colorado and New York, points are never expunged from your permanent record, but they are "forgotten" under certain conditions. 

Here is how long points take to expire in six different states:

  • Florida: If a driver's record stays clean, points removed five years after the violation.

  • New Jersey: Three points removed for every 12 consecutive months without a violation.

  • Texas: One point deducted for each consecutive 12-month period without a violation.

  • California: If a driver's record stays clean, points removed three years after a minor violation and 10 years after a major violation.

  • Alaska: Two points removed after 12 months without a violation.

  • Maine: If a driver's record stays clean, points removed one year after a violation.

While safe driving and time will typically remove DMV points, in many states you can have points disappear if you take a state-approved driver's course.

Good Driving Record? Get Lower Rates

Take a Driver's Education Course

The crucial difference between the reckless driver and the safe driver is awareness: Consciously or not, reckless drivers act as if an accident were highly unlikely or impossible at the particular time they happen to be in a particular place. In contrast, safe drivers are highly conscious of the possibility of having not just an accident but a catastrophic, life-altering accident. Driving courses seek to heighten a driver's awareness of the need for vigilance when drivers are behind the wheel.

Driver's Education Courses

In many states, taking a state-approved driver's education course can subtract points from your DMV record or stop them from being imposed after a conviction. For example, successfully completing New York's Point and Insurance Reduction Program will subtract a whopping four points from your total. Florida-licensed drivers who have been convicted of certain moving violations can avoid receiving points if they complete the state's Basic Driver Improvement Course. In Iowa, you can take a defensive driving or traffic-school course to avoid points or subtract points. Check with your state's DMV to fully understand your options.

Some drivers can avoid points by taking a defensive driver course. Driver's education courses can also lower your insurance rate.

Auto Insurers' Courses

Many auto insurance companies reward drivers who voluntarily take a driver education course: While taking a carrier's course won't remove points from your DMV record, it will lower your insurance rate. For example, State Farm's Steer Clear discount program offers an education course that can save drivers up to 15%; however, participants must be under the age of 25 with no at-fault accidents or traffic tickets in the past three years. Geico offers a discount for taking a defensive driving course and a special discount for young driver's who take a driver's education course.

Telematics Devices

Another great way to learn (and save) is to volunteer to have your driving habits tracked by telematics. This technology provides real-time information on a driver's braking, acceleration, nighttime driving and miles driven. Allstate's Drivewise and Nationwide's SmartRide programs offer personalized, usage-based feedback that helps customers drive safer and lower their insurance costs. Liberty Mutual's RightTrack program can result in a discount of up to 30%.

Discounts for Safe Drivers

Auto insurance discounts serve to lower a policyholder's insurance rates. Every auto insurance company has its own discounts, and each discount has its own eligibility requirements and restrictions. For example, an auto insurer might offer a discount in one state but not in another. However, here are some common, safety-minded discounts:

Safe Driver

Sometimes called a "good driver" discount, this money-saving kickback incentivizes vigilant driving habits. To qualify for Nationwide's discount, you have to be free of at-fault accidents and major violations for at least five years. At State Farm, customers are eligible if they have gone only three years without an at-fault accident or traffic ticket. Allstate has a Safe Driving Club. Some insurers provide a "longtime safe driver" discount. Other companies offer other, similar possibilities.

Accident-Free

State Farm customers who have not had a chargeable accident in at least three years may qualify for a discount of up to 25%. Liberty Mutual has an accident-free discount as well as a violation-free discount. Allstate deducts $100 from your collision insurance for each year (up to five years) that you stay accident-free. If you are a safe driver, you should ask your licensed agent about this discount.

Accident Forgiveness

If you have a clean driving record, your auto insurer may permit you to upgrade your policy to include accident forgiveness, which gives you a free pass on your first at-fault accident, assuming the accident was not the result of inebriation. Your state DMV will still put the accident on your record, but your auto insurer won't hit you with a surcharge or premium increase.

Safety Features

Insurance companies reward not only safe drivers but also safe cars. This means that policyholders can save on their auto insurance premium if their vehicle has anti-lock brakes, air bags or daytime running lights. At Geico, customers can save up to 23% if their vehicle has air bags. Liberty Mutual's "advanced safety features" discount recognizes electronic stability control and adaptive headlights as well as anti-lock brakes.

Maintaining a Clean Driving Record

The best way to maintain a clean driving record is to be a driver who exhibits knowledge, alertness, foresight, judgement and skill behind the wheel—in short, all the characteristics that are associated with a defensive driver. A defensive driver has a much, much better chance than a careless, distracted, inebriated or tired driver of avoiding accidents. Further, a defensive driver avoids behaviors that can lead to accidents and, in some cases, make them worse than they otherwise would have been:

Moving Violations

  • Speeding tickets

  • Failing to stop at a red light or stop sign

  • Seatbelt violations

  • Child-seat violations

  • Failing to yield

  • Driving without a license

  • Illegal turns

  • Following too closely

  • Failing to stop for a school bus

  • Using a cell phone while driving

  • Driving a vehicle with inadequate brakes or other unsafe equipment

  • Leaving the scene of an accident without identifying yourself

Criminal Traffic Violations

  • Reckless driving

  • Aggressive driving

  • Driving while intoxicated (DWI, DUI)

  • Driving with a suspended or revoked license

  • Driving without your state's mandated auto insurance

  • Presenting a fake insurance ID card to law enforcement

  • Operating a vehicle with a suspended registration

  • Committing a traffic violation that causes bodily injury

  • Leaving the scene of an accident that causes injury or death (hit-and-run)

  • Evading law enforcement officers

Inexpensive Auto Insurance for any Driving Record

Safe drivers with a clean driving record benefit from lower-than-average auto insurance rates and are eligible for a variety of discounts. If you need to improve your driving record, you must drive safely and avoid all accidents, moving violations and criminal infractions. Points have a negative impact on your car insurance premium while on your record, but they typically disappear after a few years of spotless driving. Some states will even subtract points from your record if you take a driver's education course.

Safe drivers with a clean record are eligible for a variety of discounts.

Whether you are a driver with a clean or spotty record, SmartFinancial's network of licensed auto insurance agents can find ways to save you money on auto insurance. Just enter your zip code below or call 855-214-2291 for free quotes from insurance agents offering the best value on car insurance in your area.

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